GETTING TO KNOW YOU
Reviewed by Steven H Silver
In truth, I'm luck that the title of David Marusek's short story collection Getting to Know You doesn't apply to me. I first discovered Marusek's stories in fiction in the 1990s when he began appearing in the pages of Asimov's. I first met him when he attended Chicon 2000, the worldcon I ran programming for. Since then, I've continued to read his stories, and have seen him occasionally as our schedules have permitted. I have to imagine that for many, Getting to Know You does apply to their experience when reading the ten stories collected in this book, originally published by Subterranean Press in 2007 (and now out of print).
Marusek cleverly put his story "The Wedding Album" as the introduction to the collection, not necessarily because the story is "better" than the other stories in the collection, but because as a Nebula Nominee, it is the most likely story to have been read by readers who are only getting to know Marusek. For those readers who read the story back in 2000 when it appeared on the Nebula ballot, it will offer a comfortable reminder of Marusek's ability before they delve into stories they may have missed upon their original publication. And if the reader missed these stories when they first appeared, there is a good chance they will be new, for other than "The Wedding Album," only three of the stories, have been reprinted.
“The Earth is On the Mend” is a tale of life in a post-apocalyptic world, although in this case, it is a world which has apparently suffered an environmental cataclysm, rather than a nuclear one. The story is seen from the point of view of a lone hunter who has seen little game, and fewer humans and is starting to see his subsistence level improve. This, of course, causes other problems for him and Marusek provides an ending which is ambiguously hopeful and his hunter possibly finds something larger to live for.
Marusek includes the epistolary tale "Yurek Rutz, Yurek Rutz, Yurek Rutz" which posits the idea that as long as one's name is remembered, even if nothing is known except the name, it confers an immortality on the person to whom the name belongs. Not as obvious if the stories are read as initially published, but in a collection, it becomes clear that Yurek Rutz is a continuing theme in Marusek's writing.
Half of the stories are set in a related universe, which includes Marusek's first novel, Counting Heads. "The Wedding Album," "We Were Out of Our Minds with Joy," "A Boy in Cathyland," "Cabbages and Kale or: How We Downsized North America," and "Getting to Know You." Although each of these stories can be read on their own, being able to read them together brings them more depth and provides a greater sense of the world Marusek has created and continued in Counting Heads.“My Morning Glory,” the final story in Getting to Know You, originally published as a short in Nature and later reprinted in Futures from Nature is a piece that Marusek describes as his “only story with an unalloyed happy ending,” but it might perhaps be better described as Stuart Smalley on ProzacTM. Marusek’s protagonist knows that his life is not going as well as he would like, but he is surrounded by automated yes-robots. His potential downfall is his ability to blind himself to realities simply by listening to the programmed voices around him.
For those who were previously unfamiliar with Marusek's work, this collection really does allow the reader to get to know this author. For those who have already read some of his short stories, it allows them to get reacquainted with Marusek and perhaps discover new depth and variety to his writing. Containing most of his published short stories, it provides a good introduction to his writing and with five stories set in the same world as Counting Heads offers a gateway to that novel.
|The Wedding Album|
|The Earth Is on the Mend|
|Yurek Rutz, Yurek Rutz, Yurek Rutz|
|A Boy in Cathyland|
|We Were Out of Our Minds With Joy|
|Cabbages and Kale or: How We Downsized North America|
|Getting to Know You|
|Listen to Me|
|My Morning Glory|
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